Load Kubernetes configs from different files

By default, Kubernetes stores kube config files to $HOME/.kube/config. If there are configurations for multiple clusters, all of them are stored in the same file. I find this rather unclear, as a configuration set consists of cluster, user, and context, which are defined in different parts of the file. kubectl config subcommands can be used to manipulate this file and to list configured contexts on clusters.

Another approach to configuration management is to use KUBECONFIG environment variable. It can be used to point kubectl to use a non-default configuration file, so one could have multiple configuration files and switch between them by exporting KUBECONFIG to point to the correct file. However, with this approach a user can’t use the awesome kubectx tool to quickly switch between contexts.

Appending multiple files to KUBECONFIG environment variable

KUBECONFIG environment variable can point to multiple files by separating file paths with a colon (:). In my kube config management approach, each cluster has its own config file in $HOME/kube/.config.d. These file paths are then appended to KUBECONFIG environment variable at shell startup. Additionally, I have wrapped this to zsh function, so I can load kube configs only on-demand. Zsh functions can be stored to for example $HOME/.zshrc:

loadkubeconfig() {

    for kubecfg in "$HOME/.kube/config.d/"*; do

    export KUBECONFIG=$kubeconfig

Luckily kubectl does not care about the trailing colon, so things can be kept simple. With this, I can easily switch contexts with kubectx and have configuration for different clusters in their own files.

Other stuff to make my life easier with kubectl

In addition to loading kube configs, I created a function for unloading them. This simply unsets the KUBECONFIG environment variable:

unloadkubeconfig() {
    unset KUBECONFIG

Both of the function names are rather long, so I aliased them in the following manner. Like zsh functions, aliases can be stored to $HOME/.zshrc:

alias lkc='loadkubeconfig'
alias ukc='unloadkubeconfig'


This post demonstrated how kube configs from multiple files can be loaded at the same time to use tools like kubectx. Besides, having a config file per cluster makes managing configurations simpler in my opinion. Want to get rid of configuration for certain cluster? Just delete one file. Want to add a new cluster? Just append the config to a new file.